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October 21, 2014, 10:11 pm
970 WMAY News Archives for 2012-06

Quinn Signs New State Budget; Cuts Funding For Targeted Prisons; Spending Plan Also Cuts Education Dollars


Just hours before the start of the new fiscal year, Governor Pat Quinn has signed the state budget into law.

 

The spending plan reduces money for education by about $200 million and child-welfare programs by around $85 million.  But Quinn used his veto power to cut out funding for two state prisons that he has targeted for closure -- the Tamms supermax prison and the Dwight women's correctional center.  Quinn hopes to reallocate that funding back to child welfare programs.

Springfield Lake Levels Down Slightly


Despite the extended drought conditions, city officials say Springfield's water supply is doing fine, but suggests smart water usage by its customers. City Water, Light and Power spokesperson Amber Sabin says the utility will keep monitoring the situation to see if conservation measures will be necessary at some point this summer. But Sabin notes that the city is pumping out treated water to customers at a near record pace, apparently because of large numbers of people watering their lawns to fight the effects of the drought.

Rash Of Fires Keeps Red Cross Busy


Springfield’s Red Cross chapter has been busy in recent days assisting victims of fires. 

 

Three adults and two children were displaced by a fire at a home on Peoria Road Friday morning.  The Red Cross is providing assistance with food and shelter for the victims.

 

And the Illinois Capital Area Chapter assisted another victim from a separate fire later in the day. The agency has dealt with four fires just since Thursday morning, and has helped 20 people in the aftermath of a total of eight blazes during the month of June.

More Reaction From the Supreme Court Ruling On Health Care


Reaction among Illinois politicians to Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling on health care reform is falling largely along party lines.

 

Governor Pat Quinn says the decision makes this a ``great day'' for health care in Illinois.

 

He says the ruling upholding key parts of the law gives the state Legislature the opportunity to go forward with a health care exchange.

 

Quinn’s 2010 opponent, state Senator Bill Brady called it, quote, “one of the biggest shocks to our personal liberty.”

 

And Bob Gray, running as an independent for the state Senate, says if elected, his first bill will be to require Illinois to opt out of the health care law’s expansion of Medicaid.

Plans for 10th Street Option Unlikely to Change


The draft proposal to route most train traffic in Springfield down an expanded 10th Street corridor is unlikely to be changed much before it’s submitted for final approval, according to state and federal officials.

 

But public comment on the plan is still being accepted through August.

 

Getting final approval of the plan is seen as an essential step in the process of seeking funding for the railroad consolidation project, which carries an estimated price tag of 315-million dollars.

 

But officials acknowledge they have no guarantees that they will be able to obtain the necessary funding.

Nelson Center Pool Closed Until Further Notice, Just In Time For Heat Wave


At the height of the heat wave gripping the Springfield area, the popular Nelson Center pool is closed until further notice.

 

The Park District says a malfunction in the pool’s circulation system forced the closure.

 

Officials haven’t yet determined the source of the malfunction, but say they will identify and fix the problem as quickly as possible in order to get the pool reopened.

 

In the meantime, Nelson Center pool passes will be honored at Veterans Memorial and Eisenhower Pools.

Twilight Parade Theme "Family Fun for Everyone"


As the unofficial start of the ten-day Illinois State Fair each year, the Twilight Parade marches through Springfield to mark the annual showcase of Illinois agriculture.

 

Those interested in participating in this year’s parade and Marching Band Competition must act soon – the deadline to enter is July 6th.

 

This year’s Fair theme is “Family Fun for Everyone,” and applicants will be screened based on entertainment value and conformance to the theme.

 

Entrants must complete an application to participate and return it with a description and drawing or photograph of the proposed entry. And there are prizes to be had.

 

The parade takes place on Preview Day, August 9th at 6pm.

Federal Air Quality Index: Air Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups


The high temperatures in Central Illinois is uncomfortable for most people, but there is a group of individuals that should be concerned about the air quality forecast.

 

It’s “Orange” according to the Federal Air Quality Index which means “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups.”

 

As a result of high temperatures and low wind speeds, air pollution levels are expected to reach that category the rest of the week.

 

Those with respiratory or pulmonary disorders, as well as active children and adults, should take special precautions, keeping cool and limiting physical activity while pollution levels are high.

UPDATED: Reaction To Health Care Decision Mixed


There are mixed reactions today as the Supreme Court hands down their ruling on the Health Care Law.

 

Illinois Senator Mark Kirk says that he disagrees with the Supreme Court’s decision and that it "threatens the economic recovery by raising taxes, imposing new regulation and creating a drag on the economy." Kirk says that congress should repeal the healthcare law.

 

Senator Dick Durbin says that now that the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the healthcare overhaul, the country “can move forward to address the unsustainable increase in health care costs and expand the protection of health insurance coverage to over 30 million Americans – including millions in Illinois.”

 

The Illinois Hospital Association says they applaud the ruling. In a statement released Thursday morning, MaryJane Wurth, President of IHA, says that they “will continue to help guide Illinois hospitals through the intricacies of health care reform including the implementation of the Illinois Health Insurance Exchange” and that the General Assembly should move to implement the state’s healthcare exchange.

 

The Illinois Director for the National Federation of Independent Business says that “Illinois residents will have their most personal health care decisions made by politicians and bureaucrats in Washington and in other states whom they’ve never met and whom they’ll have a hard time influencing in the future.”

 

Meanwhile a statement from Families USA, a nonprofit national organization for heath care customers says the decision is a “huge victory for American families” that will ensure no one will be denied health coverage,” and coverage plans will be fair for pre-existing conditions and regardless of age and gender.

 

Jim Duffet from Illinois’ Campaign for Better Health Care says it’s time to urge “Governor Quinn to immediately sign an Executive Order and begin implementing the new insurance Marketplace exchange so Illinois' hard working families and small businesses will continue to enjoy the benefits.”

 

Illinois State Senator Bill Brady released a statement saying the ruling goes beyond the issue of mandatory insurance. Brady says “It will drive up health care costs and put yet another financial burden on our already struggling small businesses.”

 

Brady also says that “Illinois will be exploring avenues available for implementing this sweeping law and still providing the greatest options and lowest cost for our families and businesses.”

 

Doug Whitley, President of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, says that the Chamber was not supportive of the law, but with the ruling they will “closely with state policymakers and other stakeholders to ensure the Affordable Care Act in Illinois is implemented with the best interests of employers and consumers in mind.”

 

Earlier this year the Chamber joined with 14 other state chambers to argue against the Anti-Injunction Act saying the Act does not bar the Supreme Court from ruling on the constitutionality of the individual mandate.

 

Congressman Aaron Schock plans a phone press conference to provide reaction from today's Supreme Court ruling about the healthcare overhaul law. 

 

Since the law was signed by the president in early 2010, a couple of dozen states had sued to reverse the individual mandate for citizens to purchase health insurance.  

 

The Supreme Court upheld major sections of the healthcare overhaul law Thursday (follow the link to read the entire ruling) including saying the individual mandate is not constitutional but the government can assess a penalty for not participating in the insurance market.

Exotic Fish Found in Litchfield's Lake


The pacu fish. Photo taken from Aquariumfish.net
The pacu fish. Photo taken from Aquariumfish.net

There’s more than just bluegill in a popular lake south of Springfield, there is also exotic fish with teeth.

 

KSDK out of St. Louis reports several exotic fish were found in Litchfield’s Lake Lou Yeager.

 

Lake Superintendent Jim Cadwell had the Illinois Department of Natural Resources determine the fish is a pacu which is a cousin to the piranha.

 

Officials are not sure how the fish got into the lake but suggest that the fish, which is native in the Amazon Basin, may have been dumped in Lake Lou an act which is illegal in Illinois.

 

Wildlife experts say that the pacu, which has teeth, eats snails, nuts and other vegetation. There have not been any reports of the fish biting swimmers.

Rail Consolidation Report To Be Presented Today


The public will get a detailed look today at the first draft of recommendations for routing train traffic through Springfield onto an expanded 10th Street corridor.

 

Implementing the plan would take hundreds of millions of dollars and require the acquisition and demolition of dozens of homes and businesses near the tracks.

 

The major open question right now is where the money would come from, given tight local, state and federal budgets.

 

A public meeting on the plan will be held today from 4 to 7 p.m. at the President Lincoln Hotel and Conference Center downtown.

Mayor Houston Plans To Introduce Ordinance Allowing Video Gambling In Springfield


Mayor Mike Houston thinks Springfield could cash in if the city allows video gambling machines at liquor establishments.

 

Houston plans to introduce an ordinance sometime next month to permit the devices.

 

Businesses that want them would have to obtain a license from both the state and the city, and would have to pay a fee to the city for each machine they operate.

 

Houston declined to speculate on how much revenue it could generate for the city, but says interest in the video gaming devices has been substantial.

Contract Negotiations Between AFSCME And State Continue


The current contract between AFSCME and state government will remain in effect for now, while the two sides bring in a mediator to help them negotiate a new deal.

 

The union and the state are locked in contentious negotiations that have been complicated by Governor Pat Quinn’s plans to close some state facilities, and by an ongoing legal battle over promised pay raises that Quinn was withheld for budgetary reasons.

 

A Cook County judge is scheduled to rule Monday on whether the state must keep its promise to give out those raises.

 

There has been no meeting scheduled yet between the state, the union and the mediator to discuss a new contract.

Authorities Step Up Operations To Curb Area Copper Thefts


Local officials are trying a number of tactics to slow down the record pace of copper thefts in and around Springfield.

 

A task force working on the problems has used sting operations and surveillance to identify dozens of suspects.  And during the month of July, Crimestoppers is increasing its reward for tips that lead to the arrest of copper thieves, up to $500.

 

Police say without help from the public, it can be very difficult to trace stolen copper back to its source, making it tough to make charges stick unless police catch someone in the act.

Officials Crack Down Harder On Copper Thefts


A bigger Crimestoppers reward is just one part of a more intense crackdown on copper thefts.

 

The thefts… in which thieves are making off with several hundred dollars worth of copper, but are often causing thousands of dollars in damage to get it… have been on the rise for years. 

 

Crimestoppers hopes bumping the reward to $500 for tips that lead to the arrest of copper thieves will put a dent in the effort.  And Springfield police say they’ve identified dozens of suspects through sting operations and other techniques.

Houston: Video Gambling Likely To Be Moneymaker For City


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston thinks allowing video gambling machines at local liquor establishments will be a money-maker for the city. 

 

Houston hopes to introduce an ordinance within a month that would allow businesses with liquor licenses to apply for state and city licenses to operate those sophisticated video gaming devices.  For now, he’s not predicting how much revenue the city might bring in from the devices. 

 

But Houston downplays the notion that legalized gambling would be bad for Springfield.  He says adults should be free to make responsible entertainment choices.

Environmental Impact Study Says 10th Street Best Option For Rail Consolidation


Springfield and Sangamon County’s hopes of moving all train traffic in the city to the 10th Street corridor have gotten a big boost.

 

A draft environmental impact statement agrees that consolidation along 10th Street is the best option, even though it would require acquisition of nearly 150 parcels of land and the relocation of a number of facilities near those tracks.

 

Endorsement of the 10th Street option is just one of the hurdles facing local officials, who must still secure hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for moving the tracks and building overpasses and underpasses.

 

That draft report is available at the city’s website, and will be presented at a public hearing Thursday.

Communities Must Approve Gambling For Planned "Lucy's Place"


A Springfield businessman hopes to open a chain of establishments that would offer alcoholic beverages, prepackaged snacks, and video gambling.

 

The State Journal-Register reports owner Chris Stone wants to open as many as nine of the establishments, to be called Lucy’s Place, in Springfield and nearby communities, and has applied for liquor licenses in those locations.

 

But those communities would also have to change their laws to allow those state-licensed video poker machines.

 

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston has indicated that he will introduce an ordinance to allow video gaming in the near future.

Garage Consolidation Held Up Because of Fleet Management Debate


Mayor Mike Houston’s plans to hire a fleet manager to oversee consolidation of the city’s garages is on hold.

 

Aldermen are resisting the plan, which would create the fleet manager position within the city’s Office of Budget and Management.

 

According to the Mayor's office, in order for the Fleet Manager position to be created, aldermen also must decide whether to create two new divisions within the Office of Budget and Management for Facilities Management and Fleet Management.

 

Several aldermen expressed concerns about the conflicts of interest that could come from the Office of Budget and Management having control over departments whose budgets it would determine come the new fiscal year.

 

There was a recommendation to have the two proposed new divisions to be independent from OBM.

 

Aldermen failed to put the ordinance creating the two new divisions on the debate agenda with a 5-4 vote during the Committee of the Whole meeting.

 

The ordinance creating the Fleet Manager position was also held up with aldermen demanding a clear job description for the proposed $90,000 position. Aldermen voted to hold the Fleet Manager position ordinance in committee.

 

Budget director Bill McCarty says the longer the city council waits, the more it will cost the city to keep operating multiple garages.

Aldermen Want More Oversight In Approving Contracts


Springfield aldermen may demand more oversight of some city contracts.

 

Alderman Gail Simpson introduced an ordinance to require council approval of any contracts over $25,000.

 

Currently, only contracts above $100,000 must go before the council.

 

But city officials say that move would nearly triple the number of ordinances that aldermen would have to review.

 

So Simpson agreed to change the amount to $50,000. The full city council will consider her proposal next week.

Cellini Suffers Blood Clot After Just a Week After Suffering Heart Attack


Convicted Illinois power-broker and Springfield-area resident Bill Cellini has had another medical setback while he awaits sentencing on his corruption convictions.

 

A spokesmen for Cellini says that the 77-year-old was treated for a blood clot. This just weeks after he suffered a heart attack and was held in a Springfield hospital for a few days.

 

Cellini was convicted of conspiring to extort money for campaign donations from a Hollywood producer.

Fleet Consolidation Held Up During Committee of the Whole


Fleet consolidation held up

 

On the agenda for the Springfield City Council Committee of the Whole is the creation of a fleet management position for the future consolidation of the city's garages for public works, fire, police and City Water Light and Power vehicles.  

 

According to the Mayor's office, in order for the Fleet Manager position to be created, aldermen also must decide whether to create two new divisions within the Office of Budget and Management for Facilities Management and Fleet Management.  

 

Several aldermen expressed concerns about the conflicts of interest that could come from the Office of Budget and Management having control over departments whose budgets it would determine come the new fiscal year.  There was a recommendation to have the two proposed new divisions to be independent from OBM.  

 

Aldermen failed to put the ordinance creating the two new divisions on the debate agenda with a 5-4 vote during the Committee of the Whole meeting.

 

The ordinance creating the Fleet Manager position was also held up with aldermen demanding a clear job description for the proposed $90,000 position.  Aldermen voted to hold the Fleet Manager position ordinance in committee.

 

Making utility hookup for new development easier

 

Two ordinances placed on the consent agenda would make the process of getting electric and water utilities hooked up for new developments easier.  

 

Currently developers have to go through a confusing schedule of deposits and refunds for both electric and water main hookups.  

 

The two ordinances provide for an easier formula for deposits and also attaches the price for hookup to CPI.    

 

Contract threshold change

 

Meanwhile, the City of Springfield is considering changing the threshold of which contracts require city council approval.

 

The proposed ordinance requires that any contract above $25,000 would require city council approval.  Currently only contracts over $100,000 require city council approval unless there is not enough money in the fund the contract will be paid from.

 

The city's purchasing agent Jay Wavering says that the change would increase the number of ordinances nearly three times.

 

Several aldermen suggested a friendly amendment moving the threshold proposal to a higher number like $50,000.  The $100,000 threshold was changed in 2009 from originally being at $15,000.  

 

The ordinance changing the threshold to an amended amount of $50,000 was placed on the consent agenda. 

 

Agreement between SPD & CPD

 

Another ordinance strengthens the language of an agreement with the City of Springfield Police Department and the Chatham Police Department to clarify language of a current agreement about cooperation between the two departments. One concern Aldermen Joe McMenamin raised is the issue of liability in mutual aid situations.

 

The Springfield City Council holds Committee of the Whole meetings every other week to determine which agenda ordinances will be placed on--the consent for all-inclusive passage or on the debate agenda where aldermen can debate the issue during the full council meetings.

 

 

Lane Closures & Water Service Disrupted Around Fairgrounds Because of Water Main Break


A water-main break near the fairgrounds will cause customers to be without water for most of the day today, according to City Water Light and Power.

 

The break of the 16-inch main, which is one of the larger mains, happened around Peoria Rd. and Saunders.

 

The Southbound lane of Peoria Rd. will be closed and water customers between Sangamon Avenue and Taintor will be out of water for most of the day while crews repair the break.

 

CWLP officials say that it’s unclear what caused this break but things like temperature shifts and even the age of the water main can be a factor.

 

There is no boil order at this time.

Area Ballots Adding Third Party Bids For November Election


Independent State Senate Candidate Bob Gray
Independent State Senate Candidate Bob Gray

More names are being added to the November ballot.

 

Bob Gray is moving ahead with an independent candidacy for the 50th State Senate District seat being vacated by Republican Larry Bomke.

 

Listen to Jim Leach talk with Candidate Bob Gray with the player above or download the MP3 here.

 

Incumbent Republican State Senator Sam McCann had been running unopposed for that seat, but Gray says voters need an alternative to what the two major parties have to offer.

 

Meanwhile, an Edwardsville businessman has filed to run as an independent in the 13th Congressional District.

 

If his petitions are upheld, he will face Democrat David Gill and Republican Rodney Davis this fall.

Bus For Sale: Ball-Chatham School Looking to Sell Surplus Bus It Mistakenly Bought


The Ball-Chatham School District is trying to sell one of the school buses it recently purchased, because district officials accidentally bought more buses than they needed or intended to buy.

 

The State Journal-Register reports the school board initially approved buying three new buses and selling four old ones.

 

But when administrators submitted the paperwork to the board for final approval, it authorized buying four new buses, and no one caught the error before the purchase was approved and completed.

 

The snafu follows an ongoing mystery, as Ball-Chatham tries to figure out what happened to a mobile classroom that it rented from a vendor and now cannot locate.

SMTD Head Retiring After 30 Years


The head of the Springfield Mass Transit District is retiring after nearly 30 years with the agency.

 

Linda Tisdale has been executive director for the past five years.

 

She will remain on as a consultant on a temporary basis while the board searches for a new director.

 

In the meantime, SMTD board chairman Frank Squires will serve as acting executive director.

Fleet Management Position Being Considered By Springfield City Hall


It could take another year for Mayor Mike Houston to complete plans to consolidate some of the city’s garages and set up a new system for overseeing maintenance of the city’s vehicles.

 

That consolidation was recommended by the Maximus management study last year ans also a garage consolidation sutdy last month, but aldermen have wavered on whether it’s necessary to hire someone to serve as fleet manager.

 

The current plan calls for adding that position, at a salary of $90,000 a year.

 

Houston hopes to have the transition complete by the end of the second quarter of fiscal year 2014.

 

The mayor says that if the position is created by the city council the job will be publicly posted and current city employees could apply for the job.

Haz-mat Crews Give Mid-West Family Broadcasting Studios The All Clear


The suspicious package
The suspicious package, photo taken by Whitney Connelly

Local public safety crews don’t take chances when it comes to suspicious packages, something we learned first-hand Monday at the Mid-West Family Broadcasting radio studios in Riverton.

 

Police, fire and haz-mat crews responded when an unidentified powder spilled out of an envelope that had been mailed to the station.

 

Portions of the building were evacuated while crews checked the package.

 

But it was eventually determined to be harmless, the powder had come from promotional matchbooks that had been mailed to the station by a record company, but which had been damaged in transit.

Powder Scare Forces Brief Evacuation At Mid-West Family Broadcasting Studios; Substance Found To Be Harmless


Haz-mat crews outside the radio station. Photo taken by Rachel Hall

The all-clear has now been sounded after a powder scare that prompted authorities to evacuate portions of the Mid-West Family Broadcasting studios, home base of 970 WMAY, on Monday. 

 

Police, fire and haz-mat crews from Springfield, Riverton and Buffalo responded after powder spilled from an envelope that had been mailed to the station.  Springfield Fire Chief Ken Fustin says it's not an uncommon situation, and crews followed a specified protocol to ensure that the substance posed no danger. 

 

It turned out to be residue from promotional matchbooks that had been mailed to the station, but which were damaged in transit, crushing the match heads.

Tobacco Shops Fear High Tobacco Tax Will Hurt Their Bottom Line


Tobacco shop and convenience store owners are concerned that the new higher taxes on cigarettes will mean a smaller bottom line for their businesses.

 

The price of smokes went up by a dollar-a-pack Sunday, with the added tax revenue to go towards closing the state’s Medicaid funding gap.

 

But tobacco retailers fear that their sales will drop off, either from people stocking up in neighboring states, or from smokers reducing or eliminating their use of cigarettes entirely.

Organizations Tied To Lawmakers Getting State Grants


Despite tight budget times, some groups are still managing to land sizable state grants, with the money often going to organizations that have ties to key Illinois lawmakers.

 

An Associated Press review finds that details about who arranged for those grants and how the money is to be spent can be hard to come by.

 

The practice is far less prevalent than during the Blagojevich years, but can represent millions of additional dollars of spending in a budget that has made dramatic cuts in other areas.

States Attorney Candidate Wants to Investigate Government Corruption Locally


The challenger for Sangamon County State’s Attorney is promising that if he’s elected, he will form a special unit in the office to investigate public corruption cases.

 

Ron Stradt accuses the state’s attorney’s office of “turning a blind eye” to those cases, even as the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago prosecuted cases of state government corruption involving actions right here in Springfield.

 

Stradt, a Democrat, says the retirement of Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald shows the need for local prosecutors to be more aggressive in such cases.

Innocence Project Works To Free Woman Convicted In Infant Death


Pam Jacobazzi
Pam Jacobazzi

A weekend rally in Springfield is part of an ongoing effort to secure the release of a Chicago area woman who they say was wrongfully convicted of the death of an infant in her care.

 

Pamela Jacobazzi was a day-care provider who was sent to prison in 1999, accused of shaking a 10-month-old child to death.

 

But the Illinois Innocence Project says the diagnosis of Shaken Baby Syndrome was incorrect, and believes the child died of a pre-existing medical condition.

 

The group is encouraging people to sign online petitions asking Governor Pat Quinn to grant clemency and set Jacobazzi free.

City Of Springfield Rallies To Beat Sangamon County In First Softball Challenge, 8-7


The City of Springfield

Above: The Springfield City Council. Below: The Sangamon County Board

Pictures by Terry Young

Springfield city leaders rebounded from a slow start to score eight runs in the final two innings and complete a come-from-behind victory, 8-7.

 

The county's bats dominated early, as county officials scored 4 in the first inning and eventually led 7-0 after five.  But Springfield rallied to score 4 in the 6th and 4 more in the 7th, winning in the game in the last frame on an RBI hit.

 

The first ever city-county showdown was a charity event ahead of Sunday's Springfield Sliders game at Robin Roberts Stadium at Lanphier Park.  The game was heard live on 970 WMAY.

Higher Illinois Cigarette Tax Takes Effect


It’s just gotten a lot more expensive to smoke in Illinois.

 

The price of a pack of cigarettes is now a dollar higher across the state, because of the tax increase approved by the General Assembly this spring to help close the Medicaid funding gap. 

 

Tobacco stores around the state are worried that the price increase will send more people across state lines for cheaper cigarettes… or will cause them to kick the habit entirely.

Motorcyclist Killed In North-End Crash


The Sangamon County Coroner has identified the man killed in a motorcycle crash in a North-end neighborhood Friday night. 

 

24-year-old Sean Michael Flynn of Springfield died when his bike collided with another motorcycle near Hastings and Black, just after 11pm.  The other motorcyclist suffered minor injuries. 

 

That accident remains under investigation.

Ex-National Guard Chief Will Run For Congress This Fall


The former head of the Illinois National Guard has been chosen by Democrats to be the party’s new candidate in the 12th Congressional District, in the Metro East area. 

 

Bill Enyart retired from his job as Adjutant General of the Guard when he decided to throw his hat into the ring for the nomination.  The party had to find a new candidate when original nominee Brad Harriman had to drop out for health reasons.

Low Levels At Lake Springfield Offer Clear Indication Of Central Illinois Drought


State officials say the early drawdown of water levels at Lake Springfield is one clear indicator of a serious drought across Central and Southern Illinois. 

 

The Illinois State Water Survey says even in years of drought, major water supplies usually stay at full pool well into July.  But officials began drawing down levels at Lake Springfield on June 1st…and the lake is down a quarter-of-a-foot since then. 

 

Agriculture experts say crops are starting to show signs of stress from the lack of rainfall.  Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel says it looks like summer will be a continuation of the warm, dry conditions of spring.

Rail Consolidation Report To Be Released Thursday


A draft of an environmental impact study on rail consolidation in Springfield will be released in the coming week. 

 

Mayor Mike Houston said earlier this month on 970 WMAY that he believes the study will find that combining train traffic onto the 10th Street corridor is the best option… a contention that Houston repeated Friday to the Citizens Club. 

 

But Houston acknowledges he has not seen the report, which will be distributed at a public meeting Thursday evening.

Unnamed Springfield Alderman Referenced In Critical Inspector General's Report


An Illinois Executive Inspector General report blasts a former Veterans Affairs official for not following state laws in hiring student workers. 

 

The report says one student… the niece of a department employee… got the job after a referral from an unnamed Springfield alderman.  But that alderman told state investigators that she did not attempt to use political influence to promote the hiring of that student.

Man Convicted Of Murder In July 4th Shooting


A local man has been convicted of murder for firing a shot into a Grandview apartment building last July 4th… striking and killing a UIS student inside. 

 

Prosecutors say Tremayne Willis should have known the building was occupied and that firing the weapon toward the building was likely to cause death or great bodily harm. 

 

Willis will be sentenced in September for the incident, which killed Steven Rogers of Moline and injured two others.

Synchronized Diver From Chatham Returns To Olympics


A diver from Chatham is going to the London Olympics – just barely. 

 

Kelci Bryant and her synchronized diving partner, Abby Johnston, won a narrow victory in the U.S. Olympic Team trials.  Only one women’s team from the U.S. qualifies for the London games… Bryant and Johnston beat their closest competitors by just four-tenths of a point. 

 

It will be Bryant’s second trip to the Olympics.  With a different partner, she finished fourth at the 2008 Beijing games.

IL Lawmakers Kick Pension Reform Can Down The Road


Pension reform is proving to be too much for Illinois lawmakers to handle… for the time being, anyway.

 

With a deal still hung up on the question of whether some state pension costs should be transferred to local school districts, colleges and universities, legislative leaders decided Thursday to put off the discussion until at least August.

 

That shatters Governor Pat Quinn’s hopes of putting a pension reform package together before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1st.

 

It also raises concerns that the delay could increase the chance that the state will face another downgrade by credit rating agencies.

Gov. Quinn Signs Bill Ending State Subsidy For Retiree Insurance Premiums


Governor Pat Quinn has approved one major change for current state government retirees.

 

Quinn signed legislation Thursday to end the state subsidy for retiree health care premiums.

 

That subsidy equaled five-percent per year of service, meaning that workers who retired after 20 years or more effectively paid no premium at all.

 

That ends July 1st, but the state still hasn’t determined how much the new premium will be.

Former Jerome Cop Indicted


A former Jerome cop has been indicted on felony charges including official misconduct for allegedly trying to alter information about a DUI stop.

 

Steven Stirmell is free on bond after being booked on the charges, which were handed down by a Sangamon County grand jury Thursday.

 

The indictment claims Stirmell changed a police report after the fact in an alleged DUI incident involving the daughter of former City Water Light and Power general manager Todd Renfrow.

Houston: Fun Must Be Balanced With Public Safety


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston

Mayor Mike Houston insists he is not out to stop people from having late night fun in Springfield.

 

But the mayor says that fun has to be balanced with the rights of residents and the need for public safety.

 

Houston is still defending his push to put an earlier time limit on amplified sound at outdoor events, saying that the later such events go, the greater likelihood of problems beyond the potential nuisance for people who live near the event.

 

But Houston also notes that he has supported outdoor festivals by reversing a previous city policy that required them to pay for police protection at the events… something the city is now providing again for free.

Alderman Simpson Working Towards Restoration of Fire Station No. 5


Springfield Alderman Gail Simpson says she may try to go around Mayor Mike Houston in order to secure funds to restore a building that housed the city’s first African-American firehouse.

 

The former Fire Station Number 5 on East Adams was manned primarily by a segregated crew of black firefighters.

 

The current owners want to use community development block grant funds to restore the building’s original façade, but so far Houston has opposed the move because he says there isn’t a detailed plan for how the project would be completed.

Quinn Signs Law Ending Free Retiree Health Care Premiums


The days of free health insurance premiums for state government retirees are coming to an end.

 

Governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation ending the state subsidy for retiree health care coverage.  Up until now, workers with 20 years or more of service did not have to pay a premium for their coverage. 

 

Under the new law, that changes July 1st.  But the amount of the premium has not been set… and must be worked out between the state and its labor unions.

City Touts More Aggressive Approach To Building Code, Zoning Violations


A house on Division Street in Springfield cited for multiple code violations

The City of Springfield is cracking down a lot harder these days on abandoned and rundown housing. 

 

Mayor Mike Houston says a more aggressive approach to building code and zoning violations… including the addition of two new city attorneys to pursue such cases…had led to a dramatic increase in the number of citations. 

 

The number of citations for everything from unsafe structures to overgrown weeds has nearly tripled in the first four months of this year, compared to 2011, according to Houston.

Houston Defends Policies Toward Outdoor Festivals


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston insists he is not an opponent of street festivals and other outdoor events… despite his efforts to force them to shut down their live music at an earlier hour. 

 

Houston notes that he is providing free police protection at those large events… a change from past administrations which charged for the police presence. 

 

But the mayor still insists that there have been complaints about the noise from events like SOHO, and still thinks there needs to be some “reasonable” standard.  However, Houston has backed away from specifying what time he thinks the amps should be turned off… saying he now wants to work with aldermen to reach a consensus on the issue.

Another Change In Mayor's Sound Curfew Policy


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston has made another change to his curfew policy for amplified music at outdoor events.

 

After suggesting cutoff times of 9:30, 10:30, and 11pm over the past six weeks, Houston now tells the State Journal-Register that he won’t impose an earlier curfew on any outdoor event this year.

 

Instead, the mayor says he will work with aldermen to come up with a “reasonable” limit on outdoor noise.

 

But the mayor now declines to name a specific time that he thinks should be the cutoff point.

New Chamber President Says Government Spending Key For Economic Development


The incoming head of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce says government spending is an important part of economic development, suggesting he will continue the Chamber’s support of a bigger local investment in infrastructure.

 

Steward Sandstrom was named this week to replace Gary Plummer, who left the Chamber last year.

 

Under Plummer, the Chamber endorsed significantly higher spending on roads, sewers and sidewalks, even if it required higher taxes to make that happen.

 

Sandstrom says given the city’s challenges, especially a possible railroad consolidation project, a substantial government investment in infrastructure will be essential.

Illinois Same Sex Marriage Case Gets Status Hearing Today


A status hearing is set for today on the lawsuits challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, but it’s still not clear who, if anyone, will actually defend that state ban.

 

Both Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan say they agree with the plaintiffs that the state law prohibiting same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

 

Outside groups who oppose gay marriage say they may seek to intervene and fight to keep the state law in place.

970 WMAY Takes Home Two IBA Silver Dome Awards


A big night for 970 WMAY at the Illinois Broadcasters Association Silver Dome Awards.

 

The Council Roundup,” and its hosts Ray Lytle and Greg Bishop, won the award for Best Feature Programming.

 

 
Ray Lytle and Greg Bishop win Best Feature Program for "The Council Roundup"   Mike Wennmacher wins for Best Sportscaster

 

And 970 WMAY play-by-play guy Mike Wennmacher was named Best Sportscaster.

 

In addition, Chris Murphy, a regular contributor to 970 WMAY, won for his work on our sister station, 98-7 WNNS.

 

Bishop, Wennmacher, and Man Cave member Johnny Molson were also finalists in other categories at the awards ceremony held last night in Normal.

Fundraiser Connected To Blagojevich Case Arrested On Separate Fraud Charges


A businessman whose name popped up during the Rod Blagojevich corruption trial has now been arrested on separate charges, accusing him of fraud and bribery related to his chain of surgical outpatient centers.

 

Raghuveer Nayak (RUG'-oo-veer NAY'-uk) is charged with offering kickbacks to doctors in exchange for referrals to his facilities… and with filing fraudulent federal tax returns. 

 

Nayak was mentioned during the Blagojevich trial… because prosecutors believed he had been approached to raise a million dollars for Blagojevich as part of an alleged deal to win a Senate appointment for Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.  But Nayak was not charged with wrongdoing in that investigation.

NBA Moms To Meet, Volunteer In Springfield This Weekend


An organization of mothers of NBA players will spend some time this weekend volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House… as part of the group’s regional convention here in Springfield. 

 

Mothers of Professional Basketball Players was set up as a support system for players… but also engages in community outreach.  Its most famous local member is Linda Shanklin, mother of Lanphier High School graduate and Philadelphia 76ers star Andre Iguodala. 

 

Shanklin says 14 basketball moms from a five-state region will spend several hours Saturday cooking and serving lunch to families staying at Springfield’s Ronald McDonald House.

West Side Schnucks Closer To Realization, Griffin Woods Threatened


The future of what’s known as Springfield’s Griffin Woods is in question at the dismay of some area residents. During Tuesday’s Springfield City Council meeting, Aldermen voted 8-2 for multiple zoning variances to make way for the new west side Schnucks.

 

Opponent Jason Daily, a former resident of the area whose parents still live there, says the wooded area has trees that have been there since before the country was founded, let alone colonized. He also says the plans for Griffin Woods does not align with Springfield’s 20-20 plan developed over a decade ago.

 

Daily says that opponents can protest the zoning change and also encourage to Springfield park district to purchase part of the wooded area for preservation. Ward 8 Alderman Kris Thielen, says that emotions on this issue are riding high.  Thielen says this is about the sale of private property.

 

Aldermen approved two sets of zoning variances for two different grocery stores Tuesday. 

 

One is the planned County Market on Carpenter Street. The other is the planned grocery store is the Schnucks at the Northeast Corner of Bruns Lane and Washington Street.  That’s one of two new Schnucks stores planned for Springfield. The other is on in East Springfield off of Sangamon Avenue.

 

Meanwhile, the Springfield City Council passed several ordinances on the consent agenda Tuesday. On the list of non-controversial ordinances includes a court case settlement involving a couple on a motorcycle and a police officer.

 

Aldermen also passed initial plans for a Schnucks on the east side.

 

As for ordinances on the debate agenda, Aldermen passed the hobby beekeeping ordinance and a revision of a nuisance ordinance that gives police and the corporation council more teeth to address properties that have chronic criminal violations.

 

There were also three union contracts on the debate agenda passed by Springfield aldermen.

Hot Days Don't Necessarily Mean Cold Hard Cash For CWLP


High heat in Springfield does not translate into cold hard cash for City Water Light and Power. Even though demand for electricity is high as temperatures soar into the 90s, utility officials say that also drives up their expenses as the utility's generators run at full power. Chief Engineer Eric Hobbie says that when there is large demand, the utility has to operate more units to ensure the system can remain stable but with the overall energy market in a slump, selling power on the open market is not profitable. Hobbie gave a monthly presentation to Aldermen Tuesday where he talked about the lowered bond rating for the utility and how the electric division has more than $7 million in negative cash flow. Hobbie says the utility has done away with two-thirds of their workforce through attrition to shore up cost savings.

Chatham Postpones Video Gambling Vote


The village of Chatham is postponing a decision on legalized video gambling.

 

Chatham has the option of approving the machines for taverns, veterans halls, fraternal organizations and other locations in the village, but opponents say it would create a heavy toll for local residents.

 

After discussing the issue at Tuesday’s meeting, Chatham trustees decided to continue the discussion at their next meeting.

 

There’s no indication when they may take a final vote.

Sen. Durbin Wants Change in Solitary Confinement Policy


U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says it may be time to rethink prison policies about solitary confinement.

 

Durbin says the practice is increasingly used not just to segregate the most violent prisoners, but also to separate immigrants, children and gay or bisexual inmates from the general prison population.

 

While prison officials say inmates are segregated for their own protection, Durbin says the long hours in isolation create a higher risk of mental illness and suicide.

Kalamazoo Chamber Head Now President of Springfield Chamber


After a search that lasted for months, the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce has a new president.

 

The chamber has chosen Steward Sandstrom, head of the Kalamazoo, Michigan Chamber of Commerce, to take on the top job here.

 

Under his leadership, Kalamazoo was named the top chamber of commerce in Michigan last year. And Sandstrom has also run chambers in several other cities, including Dubuque, Iowa.

 

He will officially start his new job here next month.

Fireworks Plagues Springfield Neighborhoods


It’s not even the 4th of July, and there are police calls for fireworks explosions in Springfield’s neighborhoods.

 

According to the City Ordinance, individuals can’t possess, sell or shoot fireworks unless they have a license to do so. But still fireworks are being heard in sections of town and police are being as diligent as they can to catch the people setting them off.

 

Deputy Chief Cliff Busher says although it’s difficult to catch individuals during the 4th of July, those caught firing them off weeks leading up to and after Independence Day will be ticketed and fined from $100 to $1000.

Union County Sues National Banks For Recording Fees


Another Southern Illinois county is suing national banks and mortgage companies for using an electronic mortgage registry that they say side-steps recording fees that the county should have been collecting.

 

Union County State’s Attorney Tyler Edmonds’ lawsuit involves the use of a database system called the “Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc.

 

The system tracks the transfers of loans from one lender to another and Wall Street securities entities – thereby eliminating the public’s ability to see the purchase and sale of properties through the traditional public records systems.

 

Union County’s clerk says their county has lost more than $35,000 in unpaid fees.

 

Josh Langfelder, Sangamon County Recorder of Deeds says Sangamon County State’s Attorney John Milheiser is checking into the situation in Sangamon County.

 

Sangamon County has lost unpaid fees due to the database, as well.

New President Of Springfield Chamber Of Commerce Chosen


The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce is bringing in new leadership from the outside. 

 

Chamber leaders have announced the selection of Steward Sandstrom to be the organization’s new president.  He currently serves as president and CEO of the chamber of commerce in Kalamazoo, Michigan… which was recognized last year as the outstanding chamber in that state. 

 

Sandstrom was chosen after a search process that began last fall, following the departure of Gary Plummer.  [Sandstrom will visit Springfield Wednesday to meet the media and discuss his plans for the local chamber of commerce.]

Durbin Hearing Targets Solitary Confinement


U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says it’s time to rethink prison policies on solitary confinement. 

 

Locking inmates up alone in cells for most of the day is a practice often used on the most violent offenders… but in what is described as the first-ever congressional hearing on the subject, Durbin says it is being increasingly used on immigrants, children, and gay, bisexual and transgendered inmates.  Durbin says prison officials justify solitary confinement in those cases by saying it’s for the inmate’s own protection… but he says it often leads to mental illness and even suicide for those inmates. 

 

Durbin says testimony at the hearing shows the need to reform the practice and revise policies that don’t actually make prisons safer.

Drug Overdose Is Leading Non-Natural Cause Of Death In Sangamon County


Listen to Greg Bishop interview Coroner Cinda Edwards with the player above or download the mp3 here.

The Sangamon County coroner is expressing concern over a large number of deaths linked to drug overdoses.

 

Coroner Cinda Edwards, in a live interview Monday on 970 WMAY, says 38 people in the county have died of drug-related causes in the past year, the single biggest non-natural cause of death in that time.

 

She says 30 deaths have been directly linked to opiates with only four linked to cocaine, two from overdosing on an anti-depression medication and two from drinking anti-freeze.

 

Edwards says a changeover to a new computerized record-keeping system has prevented her from making a year-to-year comparison so far, but says the sheer number of such cases is reason to be alarmed and to remind people of the dangers of substance abuse.

"Babe" Gabriel Passes Away, Callers Remember His Notorious Past


Listen to callers rememer Babe Gabriel with the player above or download the mp3 here.

The death of one of Springfield’s most notorious local criminals has generated lots of stories and memories.

 

Julian “Babe” Gabriel died of natural causes in a federal prison in Colorado, where he had been jailed since the 1980s.

 

During his time in Springfield, Gabriel was involved in numerous drug and weapons crimes, and was suspected, but never convicted, of murder.

 

At one point, Gabriel turned himself in to authorities through a phone call to 970 WMAY’s “One Eyed Jack” show.

 

Callers to the station Monday remembered Gabriel as a charismatic but dangerous figure.

Chatham To Vote On Video Game Gambling For Taverns


The Chatham Village Board will consider a plan tonight to allow legalized video gaming at taverns, veterans and fraternal organizations, and other state-licensed businesses.

 

The state has authorized video poker machines, with proceeds to help pay for public works programs, but local communities must approve their use.

 

Opponents are expected to urge the board to reject the proposal, saying it will lead to big financial losses for local residents.

Gov. Quinn Acknowledges Pension Reform Deadline Unrealistic


Governor Pat Quinn now acknowledges that lawmakers are unlikely to meet the deadline he imposed to reach a deal on pension reform.

 

Quinn has said he wants a deal by the end of the current fiscal year on June 30th.

 

But progress remains hung up on the question of whether some state pension costs should be shifted to local school districts, colleges and universities.

Meet The Mayor This Wednesday


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston

The next session of “Meet the Mayor” with Mayor Mike Houston is scheduled for Wednesday evening from 5:30 to 7:30 in the Mayor’s office.

 

The meeting is open to the public for anyone who would be interested in speaking with the Mayor.

 

Residents of the City of Springfield can spend up to ten minutes face-to-face with the mayor, outlining issues, suggestions, and thoughts.

 

Topics should pertain to municipal issues.

 

There is no appointment required and no forms to complete.

 

The Mayor’s office is on the third floor of Municipal Center East, 800 East Monroe.

With High Temps, Cooling Centers To Be Available


Man, it’s hot.

 

Temperatures are in the 90’s this week and for those who have no access to air conditioning, the City of Springfield has a few places to go to get out of the heat.

 

There are a number of city buildings open to the public during the day. And people are allowed to go to the Lincoln Library, Municipal East or Municipal West during the hottest part of the day to cool off and get a drink of water.

 

The City of Springfield will be notifying the public once the temperatures become extreme of other facilities to get relief from the heat.

City Looks To Settle $300,000 Negligence Case


There are up to 50 different cases pending against the City of Springfield and coming up in a few weeks, Aldermen will be deciding on one case with over a quarter-million-dollar price tag.

 

Springfield Alderman will consider a negligence case filed in Sangamon County Circuit Court against the Springfield Police Department. The case was filed in 2003 and the city is looking to settle for $300,000.

 

That ordinance is on first reading for Tuesday.

 

This is just one of about 50 pending court cases filed against the city of Springfield, according to Corporation Council Mark Cullen. Cullen says there are a wide variety of cases against the city of Springfield, ranging from accidents, to discrimination and contract disputes.

 

Another case the city hopes to settle involved a couple on a motorcycle injured by a Springfield Police officer back in 2007. The couple is suing the city for $48,000 for injuries plus pain and suffering.

 

Aldermen placed the ordinance settling that 2007 case on the consent agenda for Tuesday’s City council meeting.

PCCC Opens Bid For Phase Three


A new round of bidding is being opened up for the next phase of renovations at the Prairie Capital Convention Center.

 

The State Journal-Register reports that the next round of work will include building areas for concession, main level improvements and also bathrooms and wheelchair accessibility for the mezzanine area.

 

The new contract is worth up to $2.5 million.

 

This is the third phase of improvements to the capital city’s convention center.

 

The total cost of all renovations is up to $16.2 million.

Tobacco Tax Goes Up In About A Week


It’s just over a week until Illinois’s new higher cigarette tax kicks in, and convenience stores around the state fear that it will drive customers across state borders to purchase cheaper smokes in neighboring states.

 

But supporters of the higher tax remind smokers that attempts to make bulk purchases of cigarettes and bring them back into Illinois to avoid paying the tax could lead to misdemeanor or felony charges.

Two Springfield Hotels Face Foreclosure


A receiver has been appointed to handle day-to-day operations at two Springfield hotels which are facing foreclosure.

 

The State Journal-Register reports the owners of the Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn Express failed to meet an April deadline to pay off their 36-million-dollar mortgage.

 

A judge appointed a Virginia company to take over the two hotels and secure all cash, accounts and assets related to them.

Sen. Durbin Supports President Obama's Immigration Policy


U.S. Senator Dick Durbin supports the Obama administration’s move to halt deportations of many young people who were brought into the country illegally as minors by their parents.

 

Durbin says those young immigrants should not be forced out of the country they call home, and says the plan gives them an incentive to become productive legal members of society.

 

But Republican critics say the plan rewards illegal behavior at the expense of those who complied with the law.

Gov. Quinn Supports President Obama's Immigration Policy


Governor Pat Quinn is coming out in support of President Obama’s new immigration policy, allowing young people brought into the country illegally by their parents to stay here without risk of deportation.

 

Quinn says the policy will benefit hard-working young people who make positive contributions to their communities.

 

Immigrants would be eligible if they were younger than 16 when they were brought here, have no criminal history, and have earned a diploma or GED or served in the military.

Supt. Milton Not Going Anywhere


Despite an active rumor mill, Springfield School Superintendent Walter Milton says he’s not going anywhere.

 

A spokesman tells 970 WMAY News there is no truth to persistent rumors that Milton is leaving to take a new job out of state.

 

 

IL Couple Remains In Custody After Children Found Blindfolded in Kansas


An Illinois couple is in custody after authorities found two of their children bound and blindfolded in the parking lot of a Kansas Wal-Mart.

 

Authorities say Adolfo and Deborah Gomez had recently sold most of their possessions and were traveling to Arizona, officials say the couple apparently believed the end of the world was imminent.

 

The children are in foster care, while the couple faces child endangerment charges.

Springfield Touts New "Most Dangerous Cities" List, Capital City Nowhere In Top 10


Springfield Mayor Houston has turned to a new crime survey to discredit Forbes magazine's choice of the capital city as the nation's 3rd most dangerous.

 

Springfield is nowhere to be found in a top ten list of dangerous cities from 24/7 Wall Street, which offers financial news and opinions on its website.

 

Mayor Mike Houston tells WMAY News the city doesn't deserve a dangerous label, especially compared to its peers.

 

Houston says the new rankings also reflect a much lower murder rate for Springfield than higher crime cities like Detroit.

County Market Breaks Ground


Downtown residents and the medical community are closer to realizing a full service grocery store with groundbreaking for the planned County Market Thursday.

 

The location at Second and Carpenter will not only provide downtown residents with a grocery store and café, it will also be a job creator.

 

Officials with Niemann Foods say the $8 million store is expected to be completed in 2013.

What Happened When Conan Met Four Lincolns?


What Happened When Conan Met Four Lincolns?

So what did happen when Conan O’Brien met four Lincolns?

 

Behind the scenes footage of the late night comedic talk show host’s visit to the Capital City has been posted on YouTube.

 

The video shows Conan being followed around by a camera crew doing a variety of things like visiting the gift shop at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and hanging out with four Lincoln impersonators.

 

At the Old State Capital, where Lincoln spent time as a state legislator, a poster on the wall caught the eye of Aaron Blayaert, a producer for Conan’s. 

 

Conan was in town several weeks ago to film the segments featuring the Lincoln Museum and the Old State Capital.

 

This week Conan broadcast his late night TBS talk show to Chicago where he proclaimed his passion for Abraham Lincoln.


You can watch the Springfield segment from Conan's show on Youtube.

Beekeeping Ordinance On Debate Agenda


There could be more debate about bees at Tuesday’s Springfield City Council Meeting.

 

An ordinance setting up municipal code regulating hobby beekeeping in Springfield was placed on the debate agenda for the upcoming city council meeting.

 

The ordinance states that beekeepers must comply with state regulations, which include registering their hives with the agriculture department.

 

It also regulates the number of hives beekeepers can have on their lot and how far away it must be from the property line.

Lake Springfield Below Pool, Not A Drought Yet


Springfield’s lake is about an inch-and-a-half below pool at the moment but that’s typical for this time of year, according to Tom Skelly, the director of the water division at City Water Light and Power.

 

A report from the Midwest Regional Climate Cneter says that May and the first two weeks of June saw 5 to 6 inches of rain and that’s 2 inches below the average.

 

It’s not a drought, but it is getting close.

 

A final report of a pump test to determine the viability of Springfield water reserves is expected in the near future.

Springfield Aldermen Agree With Open Meetings Ruling


Springfield Alderman are responding to a ruling that all communication concerning official business, even if text messages are sent from personal cell phones, should be open.

 

Alderman Gail Simpson says that getting a text during council meetings is a distraction and sending messages to other elected officials during meetings can be problematic.

 

Ward 5 Alderman Sam Cahnman says he also doesn’t text during council meetings and that the Springfield City Council should be an open book under the open meetings act.

 

Champaign City Council is reported to be in the process of appealing the judges ruling.

Springfield Police Segways Get New Batteries


The Segways are coming back to life at the Springfield Police Department with some new batteries purchased for the two-wheeled electric vehicles.

 

The two Segways were purchases several years ago with drug-forfeiture money and have been out of commission for months because the original rechargeable batteries had been fully drained.

 

Police Chief Robert Williams said at a recent city council meeting that officers will get training in the next few weeks to get the vehicles back patrolling city sidewalks.

Commission To Evaluate Access To Legal System


A commission to evaluate the public’s access to courts has been established by the Illinois Supreme Court.

 

The commission will look at ways to help the public obtain legal information, affordable legal representation and even ways for people who are less mobile than others to get to courts.

 

Chief Justice Thomas Killbride says the commission’s top priority is to open up the legal system to everyone regardless of their socioeconomic status.

Tobacco Tax Stamp Case Postponed, Possible Conflict Of Interest


Eight companies are seeking a restraining order against the state of Illinois to force the state to open up more tobacco stamps, but the hearing has been postponed because of a conflict of interest.

 

The presiding judge, John Schmit, says his campaign treasurer is also employed by one of the associations in the case.

 

The State Journal-Register reports that the state is asking for a new judge to be appointed.

 

The case has been postponed and a new trial date has not been set. The companies claim the state is withholding stamps that must be affixed to tobacco products before being sold.

 

Distributors claim there is an increase in demand as people buy more tobacco products before a $1 per pack tax is tacked on June 24th.

Police Report: $1500 Stolen From Hoogland


Upwards to $1500 has been stolen from the Hoogland Center for the Arts.

 

A police report indicates that the money was reported missing Wednesday but it’s unclear when it was taken.

 

The money was from a recent trivia.

 

Hoogland officials are not sure if the theft took place before or after the money made it to the vault.

Sangamon County Fair Underway


The Sangamon County Fair is underway. 

 

The five-day event in New Berlin features motocross, a Father’s Day demolition derby, and a lot of country music.  A single admission price gets you access to all rides, shows and other events… but food and drinks are extra. 

 

A full schedule of events is available online at www.sangcofair.com.

 

Sound Curfew Issue Won't Quiet Down


Now it’s Springfield aldermen’s turn to make some noise about the issue of amplified music at outdoor events.

 

Several aldermen are not pleased by Mayor Mike Houston’s efforts to slap a curfew on live outdoor music, and now Ward 1’s Frank Edwards is working on an ordinance that could allow the music to continue later in the evening.

 

Houston originally proposed a 9:30pm cutoff, but last week on 970 WMAY said he was leaning toward letting it go as late as 11pm.

 

Corporation Council Mark Cullen says ordinances already on the books say there cannot be music out at the Springfield Marina past 10pm and that could threaten the upcoming Rock the Dock celebration.

 

Alderman Cory Jobe who recently came out in support of the SOHO Music Festival, another outdoor event that was targeted with a possible sound curfew, says the city has other priorities like crime and abandoned properties.

 

Alderman Jobe and Ward One’s Frank Edwards made it clear Tuesday that they are drafting an ordinance that lays out a clear definition of a sound curfew.

 

Either way the battle is not expected to affect this year’s Rock the Dock event on June 29th at the Lake Springfield Marina.

 

Rock the Dock is organized by Midwest Family Broadcasting stations, including 970 WMAY, and draws thousands of people to Lake Springfield Marina for a fireworks show and live music.

Ruling Impacts Elected Officials' Communication


A ruling by a Sangamon County judge could have ripple effects throughout government on the way elected officials communicate.

 

Judge John Schmidt has ruled that the city of Champaign must turn over e-mails and text messages generated by city council members during meetings, even those that are sent from the officials’ personal cell phones.

 

Attorney Don Craven says the ruling recognizes today’s rapidly-changing technology, and serves as a reminder to officials that their communications on government issues are part of the public record, no matter how that communication is transmitted.

Sangamo Scripts Gets Updated, Saves Residents Money on Prescriptions


A decade-old discount drug program offered by Sangamon County now promises bigger savings on more services.

 

The county board has approved hiring a new provider to oversee the Sangamo Scripts program.

 

Nearly 10-thousand people have signed up over the past ten years, and have gotten an average 25-percent discount on thousands of prescription drugs.

 

County officials say the new program will mean discounts of nearly 40-percent, and will also mean reduced prices on lab work, dental, vision and hearing services, and even veterinary care.

 

The new Sangamo Scripts program starts September 1st.

Sangamon County To Post Check Book Online


Sangamon County’s check book will soon be available online.

 

County Auditor Paul Palazzolo says the initiative is one of many to raise awareness and enhance control measures in county government.

 

The recent indictment of a city official in Dixon, Illinois, prompted Palazzolo to bring in a review panel to evaluate what happened and provide recommendations to county officials.

 

Some other measures recommended include increasing awareness of the fraud hotline, increase fraud awareness training and require notification to the auditor’s office of any new bank accounts from Sangamon County government departments.

WQNA To Stay On Air For Another Year


A non-commercial station that often plays music not heard elsewhere on the dial will continue operating for at least the next year.

 

The future of WQNA radio was in doubt when the Capital Area Career Center, which houses the station, decided to drop its radio and TV classes.

 

High school students attending the career center had provided some of the staffing for the station, while community volunteers handled other shifts.

 

The career center board voted Tuesday to maintain the station for at least another year.

Dr. Pleads Guilty To Fraudulently Obtaining Narcotics


A former pediatrician on staff at SIU School of Medicine has pleaded guilty to one county of fraudulently obtaining prescription drugs.

 

50 year old Kathleen A. Lake allegedly obtained narcotic prescription pain medication, falsely telling a nurse that another doctor had ordered the prescription, then telling the nurse to call the medication in to a pharmacy in Lake’s name.

 

Lake is facing a maximum penalty of up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Following prison time, Lake will serve a term of supervised release for up to three years. Her license has been suspended for at least five years from the date of sentencing.

Sangamon County Rolls Out New Discount Program For Prescription Drugs, Other Services


Sangamon County officials say they’re taking a good thing and making it even better. 

 

The county is switching to a new provider for its “Sangamo Scripts” discount prescription drug program. County officials say not only will members see even bigger savings on thousands of prescription drugs, the program will also offer a variety of other discounted services… including lab work, dental, vision, hearing, and even veterinary care. 

 

Nearly 10,000 people are currently enrolled in the program, which was first introduced a decade ago.  County officials say the program is free to enrollees… and can be offered at no cost to taxpayers.

Judge Orders Champaign To Turn Over Aldermen's E-Mails, Text Messages Sent During City Council Meetings


A Sangamon County judge has delivered what some are calling a landmark ruling, requiring the city of Champaign to turn over copies of e-mails and even text messages sent by aldermen during city council meetings. 

 

Judge John Schmidt’s ruling… said to be the first of its kind in the state… finds that those communications are part of the public record… even if they were transmitted from an alderman’s personal cell phone. 

 

The city had tried to withhold some of those messages… but a Champaign newspaper and the state attorney general’s office argued that aldermen cannot use personal devices to shield themselves from disclosing communications during public meetings.

Sangamon County Farm Bureau Launches eLert System


Farm text interface
A close up of the interface Farm Bureau and Sheriff's officials will use to send texts and emails to subscribers

The Sangamon County Farm Bureau is teaming up with the Sangamon County Sheriff’s department to implement a rural crime alert system.

 

Officials from the Farm Bureau, the County Board and the Sheriff’s department say the system will help members of the farm bureau receive real-time text messages and emails about crimes where police may not be immediately available.

 

The one-way communication system is only available to farm bureau members and will be used to send crime alerts and also messages about Farm Bureau Business.

 

The system is set up to include around 11,000 members of the Sangamon County Farm Bureau.

 

No public money was used to implement the system.

Medicaid Reform Takes Effect July 1st


More than 25,000 working parents in Illinois are about to get some bad news in the mail, they will be losing their state-provided health coverage at the end of this month.

 

The state has just now sent out notices to families whose coverage will expire on July 1st as part of the $2.7 billion Medicaid reform plan.

 

That plan tightens eligibility requirements for the Family Care program, meaning that families above 133-percent of the federal poverty rate, around $20,000 a year for a two-person household, will no longer qualify for coverage.

Coroner: Durkin Drive Deaths Murder-Suicide


Autopsy results indicate that two people found dead in an apartment on Durkin Drive last week were the victims of a murder-suicide.

 

Coroner Cinda Edwards says Vecheeka Wesley-Sullers died of injuries to the head and neck, although a press release from the coroner’s office did not indicate the nature of the weapon used to kill her.

 

The other person found there, Shawn Kee, died of a self-inflicted wound, according to Edwards.

Springfield Woman Held on $10 Million Bond For Double Homicide


Bond remains at 10-million-dollars for the Springfield woman accused of killing her estranged husband and another family member last week in her home on Winterberry Lane.

 

Melody Lyons had her hands cuffed in front of her for her first court appearance on the charges.

 

Prosecutors say she shot Lloyd Lyons and his uncle, Henry Dale Gilbert, multiple times last Friday.

 

Lloyd Lyons had filed for divorce several weeks earlier, but prosecutors aren’t saying yet what they think may have led up to the killings.

IL GOP Favors FOID Repeal


Illinois Republicans have now come out in favor of repealing the state Firearm Owners ID card law, even though that language did not make it into the platform approved by party members at their state convention last weekend.

 

In 2008, the state GOP platform supported the continued use of FOID cards, but this year the party’s platform committee voted to call for repeal of the law.

 

However, Chicago Public Radio reports that provision was inadvertently left off the platform that was voted on at the convention.

 

Party officials have now added it into the platform after the fact, citing party by-laws that allow them to make technical changes that reflect the will of the party.

Coroner: Durkin Drive Deaths Were Apparent Murder-Suicide


Sangamon County Coroner Cinda Edwards says it appears that two people found dead in an apartment on Durkin Drive last week died in a murder-suicide.

 

Autopsy results indicate that Vecheeka Wesley-Sullers died from "injuries to the head and neck," but a press release from Edwards did not disclose the nature of the injuries or what type of weapon, if any, was involved.  The statement also says the second victim, Shawn Kee, apparently died of a self-inflicted wound.  The coroner's office is still awaiting results of toxicology tests.

Bond Set At $10 Million For Woman Suspected Of Double Murder


Bond remains at ten-million dollars for a Springfield woman charged in the murder of her estranged husband and another family member. 

 

50-year-old Melody Lyons has been charged with six counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Lloyd Lyons and Henry Dale Gilbert.  State’s Attorney John Milhiser says the six counts represent three different theories about how the crimes transpired. 

 

Milhiser declined to comment on possible motives in the case, but court records show that Lloyd Lyons had filed for divorce several weeks before the killings last Friday. 

 

The next court hearing in the case is set for June 28th.

Quinn Weighs Prisoner Early Release Program


The issue of prisoner early release programs has once again fallen into Governor Pat Quinn’s lap. 

 

Quinn is considering a bill approved by lawmakers last month to reinstate a program letting certain non-violent offenders out early if they have a record of good behavior behind bars. 

 

Quinn put a halt to early release programs when controversy over one such initiative became a major political issue in the governor’s 2010 campaign. 

 

Supporters say the program is needed to reduce prison overcrowding.  But Republicans tell the Chicago Tribune that Quinn could already implement an early release program now… and suspect the bill is just a way to give him political cover and allow him to blame it on the legislature if a released inmate commits a crime.

State GOP Chair Goes After Obama & Madigan


Illinois Republicans will spend lots of time this year on the attack against President Obama, but House Speaker and state Democratic chair Mike Madigan may be a close second on their list of favorite targets.

 

At the state party convention over the weekend, Illinois GOP chair Pat Brady went on the attack, calling Madigan, quote, “a controlling, vindictive, ethically challenged, self-serving leprechaun.” Brady compared the state under Madigan’s leadership to a Third-world republic like Venezuela.

 

The party hopes to weaken Madigan’s iron grip on the House in the fall elections.

Aldermen Buzz: Proposed Ordinance Allows For Hobby Beekeeping


It’s an issue that generated lots of buzz last year, and now Springfield aldermen will take up the issue of hobby beekeeping.

 

An ordinance that goes before the City Council this week would clarify the city’s rules and make it clear that people are allowed to keep a limited number of beehives on their property.

 

Sangamon County Board member Tim Moore, who is himself a beekeeping enthusiast, helped to draft the language of the city ordinance.

Alderman Calls For More Teeth In Nuisance Ordinance


Landlords whose properties are the scenes of frequent police calls could face tougher scrutiny under an ordinance being proposed by Springfield alderman Tim Griffin.

 

The current city ordinance allows for a nuisance declaration if there have been two police calls in a 60-day period. Griffin’s proposal would alter that to allow the declaration if there have been three calls within any 12-month period.

 

The ordinance also cleans up some of the offenses to be considered a nuisance.

 

If the chief of police receives report of a nuisance property under the proposed ordinance, the city’s corporation council could then have the courts put an injunction on the property owner from renting out the property.

Unanswered Questions In Deaths Of Four People in Springfield


Still plenty of unanswered questions surrounding two separate incidents last week that left four people dead in Springfield.

 

Police have charged a Springfield woman with murder in the shooting deaths of her estranged husband and another family member.

 

Melody Lyons is accused of shooting Lloyd Lyons and Henry Dale Gilbert in the family home on Winterberry Lane.

 

But police have not offered any hints about what may have led to the violence inside that home. And authorities have disclosed few details about the deaths of a man and woman inside an apartment on Durkin Drive.

 

The bodies of 48-year-old Vecheeka Wesley-Sullers and 43-year-old Shawn Kee were discovered Thursday, but authorities still have not disclosed a cause of death.

Multiple Accidents Snarl I-55 Traffic For Hours Sunday Morning


Illinois State Police say only minor injuries resulted from a multi-vehicle pileup that closed I-55 near Springfield Sunday morning. 

 

The chain reaction began with a single-vehicle rollover accident that left one person with non-life-threatening injuries.  Shortly after that, according to state police, as many as seven vehicles were involved in one or more additional accidents near the scene of the first crash. 

 

Southbound traffic had to be diverted off the interstate at the South Grand Avenue exit for several hours.

Republicans Go On The Attack Against Mike Madigan


Illinois Republicans are not holding back in their criticism of House Speaker and state Democratic chair Mike Madigan. 

 

At this weekend’s Illinois GOP convention, Republican party chair Pat Brady called Madigan, quote, “a controlling, vindictive, ethically challenged, self-serving leprechaun."

Coroner Identifies Victims Of Winterberry Lane Shootings


The Sangamon County Coroner has identified the victims of Friday’s double homicide on Winterberry Lane. 

 

50-year-old Lloyd Lyons and a relative, 69-year-old Henry Dale Gilbert, were found fatally wounded when police responded to a 911 call.  Lloyd Lyons’ estranged wife, 50-year-old Melody Lyons, is charged with murder in the case.  Lloyd Lyons reportedly filed for divorce several weeks ago.

Coroner Names Two Found Dead on Durkin Drive


Springfield police are still investigating the deaths of two people found Thursday inside an apartment on Durkin Drive, but are offering few details about the circumstances of those deaths. Autopsies were conducted Friday which could provide more clues about how the two died.

 

Investigators say 48-year-old Vecheeka Wesley-Sullers and 43-year-old Shawn Kee both of Springfield did not die of natural causes, but have not indicated whether they believe the deaths were the result of homicide, suicide or accident.

 

Police do say they are not looking for suspects in the deaths.

Arrest in Winterberry Shooting Deaths


Springfield Police have arrested 51-year-old Melody L. Lyons of the 6400 block of Winterberry Lane on two counts of First Degree Murder following a series of interviews conducted by Springfield Detectives.

 

Lyons was arrested in connection with the shooting deaths of two individuals at a residence on Winterberry lane, just off Toronto Road.

 

Preliminary investigation reveals that the incidents were apparently the result of a domestic disturbance involving both victims.

CWLP Customers Urged to Sign Up for The Round Up Program


City, Water, Light and Power are reminding their customers that they can participate in the City’s “Round Up Program” through an insert in with their monthly bill.

 

The Round Up program provides Springfield residents with an easy way to help the homeless by having their monthly CWLP bill rounded up to the next dollar. Funds raised through the program are placed in a special account where a seven-member committee advises the Director of the Office of Community Relations on who the funds should be distributed.

 

The insert in June’s CWLP bills provide a sign up form which can be mailed back with the bill payment or separately. Or residents may donate on-line by going to the utility’s website CWLP (dot) com.

The Steve Miller Band Books at Illinois State Fair


And the finale for the Illinois State Fair Grandstand acts – The Steve Miller Band. The classic rock group will take the Grandstand stage on Sunday, August 19th, filling the lone open date in the 2012 Illinois State Fair concert line-up.

 

The band has sold more than 30 million records during their nearly 40 year career. “the Joker” shot to Number One on the charts in 1973, followed by “Fly Like an Eagle” “Take the Money and Run” and “Jungle Love.”

 

Tickets go on sale Saturday and can be purchased at the Grandstand ticket office or through Ticketmaster.

Two Dead Following Apparent Double Shooting On Winterberry Drive


Two people are dead following an apparent double shooting at a residence on Winterberry Drive, just off Toronto Road. 

 

Springfield police were called to the home in the 64-hundred block of Winterberry and found a man there with a serious gunshot wound.  He was taken to the hospital and later died.  As police searched the scene, they found a second male victim already deceased in the basement.  Police are interviewing several individuals who were in the home when they arrived.

 

Stay with 970 WMAY for updates on this developing story.

Investigation Continues Into Deaths Of Two People Found In Springfield Apartment


Springfield police are still investigating the deaths of two people found Thursday inside an apartment on Durkin Drive, but are offering few details about the circumstances of those deaths.

 

Investigators say the people did not die of natural causes, but have not indicated whether they believe the deaths were the result of homicide, suicide or accident.  They also have not yet released the names, ages, or even the genders of the victims.

 

Police do say they are not looking for suspects in the deaths.

Improvement Grant for Springfield's Airport


Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport will be getting funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Senator Dick Durbin says the $945,000 award will be used to rehabilitate existing apron pavement at the airport. Durbin says the grant will allow new improvements so the airport can continue to serve Central Illinois travelers safely and efficiently.

Oops, They Did It Again: Road Crews Rupture Gas Line At Clear Lake Project Twice In Two Days


For the second time in two days, road crews working on the big redesign of Clear Lake and Dirksen have ruptured an underground gas main, temporarily disrupting traffic around the already-congested road project. 

 

An IDOT spokesman says the gas line had been marked, and crews had been digging around it.  But the line was apparently not buried evenly… and was closer to the surface at one point than originally thought.  That’s where the crew struck and ruptured the line. 

 

Just as with a similar incident Wednesday, crews had to close off part of Clear Lake Thursday until the broken line could be repaired. [All lanes of traffic are now re-opened.]

Mayor Cannot Rule Out Possibility That Trash Plan Would Limit Choice Of Waste Haulers


An upcoming proposal on garbage pickup around Springfield will likely recommend dividing the city into “zones,” which could restrict what day of the week residents get trash pickup… and may restrict which waste hauler they are allowed to use. 

 

Mayor Mike Houston makes it clear that the proposal is still being negotiated and is not finalized.  But in a live interview on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Houston said the proposal would include the creation of zones, with each one having a designated day for trash pickup, with a goal of reducing wear and tear on city roads. 

 

Houston says the proposal wouldn’t necessarily require that people in a particular zone must use a specific waste hauler… but he also says he can’t rule out that possibility.

 

The mayor also says he personally believes waste haulers deserve a rate increase, something they haven't had in nearly a decade.  But he stressed again that such an increase, like other provisions in the garbage pickup proposal, must still be negotiated.

Report On Rail Consolidation Delayed Until Late June


Springfield is still waiting on the trains… and on a study that could determine which rail corridor will be used to accommodate them. 

 

That environmental impact study was originally expected to be delivered by the end of May.  Mayor Mike Houston says the target date has been changed several times… and he’s now told the report will be delivered by June 28th

 

The study is expected to make recommendations on which rail corridor is best suited to handle an expected major increase in rail traffic.  Houston says he’s optimistic that the report will select the 10th Street tracks… which is the favored route of both the city and Sangamon County.  But even if it does, the next challenge is how to find the money to pay for that rail consolidation project.

Mayor Further Modifies Outdoor Music Curfew, Says He's Leaning Toward 11pm Limit For Amplified Events


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston talks about the sound curfew on The Jim Leach Show. Listen with the player above or download the MP3 here.

Under criticism over his earlier decision to cut off live music at outdoor festivals at 9:30pm, Springfield Mayor Mike Houston is making new modifications to the policy -- now saying such events may be allowed to go as late as 11pm.

 

In a live interview on 970 WMAY's "Jim Leach Show," Houston said that in ongoing conversations with people about the policy, he is now "leaning toward" an 11pm cutoff, which he says will balance the desire for an active nightlife with the need to maintain order and prevent nuisances for those who live near such events.

 

Houston says there were complaints about the recent SOHO festival downtown, which was granted an exemption from his new policy and allowed to run until midnight; the mayor did not say how many complaints he received.  And Houston also linked the event to an assault on a woman after the first night of SOHO.  While saying SOHO was not to blame for the attack, he says the risk of such assaults goes up when large festivals run later into the evening.

 

Houston originally proposed a curfew for amplified music for 9:30pm. Supporters of the recent SOHO Music Festival urged the mayor to reverse his decision and Houston revised the curfew for 10:30, allowing this year’s SOHO to go until its scheduled end at midnight.

 

After record attendance at the two-day downtown music festival, Houston now says that the curfew will be 11pm.

Quinn & Leaders Talk Pension Reform


Governor Pat Quinn and legislative leaders will keep talking, but they remain divided on the best way to tackle pension reform.

 

Senate President John Cullerton wants to deal with changes to state employee and lawmaker pensions first, and leave the more complicated issue of teacher pensions for later.

 

The Republican leaders in the House and Senate reportedly agree with the Cullerton plan. But Quinn and House Speaker Mike Madigan say the legislature must tackle teacher pensions and address the question of shifting their cost back to local school districts.

 

Another meeting will take place in about two weeks.

House Panel: Enough Evidence to Punish Smith


A legislative panel says there's enough evidence for the Illinois House to punish state Representative Derrick Smith, who is accused of accepting a $7,000 bribe.

 

The committee’s recommendation is just the first step in a lengthy process that could lead to Smith eventually being expelled from the House.

 

Another committee will now be convened to review the evidence and recommend the actual punishment, but the final decision is up to the full House.

 

Smith's attorney criticized the panel for acting before viewing all the evidence compiled by federal prosecutors.

Cellini Suffers Heart Attack, Still Awaits Sentencing


Convicted Springfield powerbroker William Cellini is recovering after suffering a heart attack this week.

 

A family spokesman says Cellini has now been released from Memorial Medical Center, where he suffered the heart attack Monday during a medical procedure.

 

The 77-year-old was convicted of conspiring to shake down a Hollywood film producer for a contribution to former Governor Rod Blagojevich's campaign.

 

He is still awaiting sentencing.

Alderman Suggest Fines For Giving Money To Panhandlers


Some Springfield aldermen are looking at ways to get even tougher on downtown panhandling, including the possibility of issuing citations to people who give money to panhandlers.

 

Alderman Tim Griffin says it’s been done in other communities as a way of discouraging panhandling. And Alderman Sam Cahnman says while he’s not necessarily endorsing the idea, he thinks it’s worth considering.

 

Some business owners downtown say panhandlers have been getting more aggressive recently.

Helping Hands Head Charged With Criminal Damage To Property


The head of a Springfield agency that helps the homeless is facing a criminal charge after being accused of keying another woman’s vehicle.

 

The State Journal-Register reports Brenda Johnson, the executive director of Helping Hands, has been charged with a single misdemeanor count of criminal damage to property for that February incident.

 

Neither Johnson nor the head of the Helping Hands board would comment to the newspaper about the pending charge.

Judge May Allow Lawyer Testimony in Drew Peterson Trial


A judge wants to question an attorney before deciding whether the man can testify in the murder trial of former Bolingbrook police sergeant Drew Peterson.

 

Attorney Harry Smith says Peterson’s third wife Kathleen Savio had told him before her death that she feared Peterson would kill her and make it look like an accident.

 

The judge ruled that Savio had waived the attorney-client privilege before her death, which would make the testimony admissible, but he also wants to know if Savio told the attorney anything that would be helpful to Peterson.

Tier 4 Emergency Unemployment Compensation Ends June 23rd


The Illinois Department of Employment Security says the Tier 4 Emergency Unemployment Compensation will end June 23rd, thanks to economic improvements.

 

That means those who will have collected benefits through Tier 3 after June 23rd will not be eligible for any more benefits.

 

However those who qualified for the Tier 4 benefits before that date can continue to collect under the program.

 

Illinois has added over 142 thousand jobs since January 2010 when the unemployment rate peaked at 11.4 percent.

 

The rate has fallen for eight consecutive months to 8.7 percent this April.

CWLP Warns Rate Payers of Utility Scam


City Water, Light and Power are warning residents of a multi-state identity theft scam, targeting utility customers.

 

Although CWLP hasn’t received any customer reports of such activity so far, victims have been reported in California, Tennessee, Texas and Illinois.

 

Customers may get a phone call saying that President Barack Obama has approved special funding for utility bill assistance – which is not true – then solicit the victims for their Social Security Number.

 

Then they’re given fraudulent bank routing numbers to pay their utility bill.

 

CWLP says anyone approached with such offers should contact CWLP customer service…and not to give the scammers any personal information.

Biggest Loser Auditions Coming to Chicago


Over 18 years of age and have at least 85 pounds to lose? You could be a candidate for the new season of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.”

 

Casting producers are going to be in Chicago looking for contestants for their next edition of the show to air in January 2013.

 

They’re looking for charismatic individuals who have a desire to change their lives forever and compete for a grand prize of $250,000.

 

They’ll be at Chicago Home Fitness, 1205 Butterfield Road in Downers Grove on Saturday, June 23rd from 10am to 6pm.

 

Information on how to apply to the show and submit a video is available at thebiggestlosercasting.com.

Illinois House Committee Recommends Disciplinary Action Proceed Against Accused Lawmaker


An Illinois House committee says there is sufficient reason to move ahead with disciplinary proceedings against a Democratic lawmaker accused of bribery. 

 

That panel has been looking into the case of Representative Derrick Smith, accused of taking a seven-thousand-dollar bribe in exchange for helping a day care center obtain a state grant. 

 

The panel’s recommendation is just the first step in the process that could lead to Smith’s eventual expulsion from the House.  Now a new House committee will take up the case and will make recommendations to the full House, which will have the final say on whether to throw Smith out.

Aldermen Discuss Ticketing People For Giving Money To Panhandlers


Some Springfield aldermen say the city should take a closer look at a tactic used by other cities to combat panhandling... making it an offense, punishable by a ticket, to give money to a panhandler.

 

The city has been trying to crack down on the problem recently, urging people not to give money to panhandlers and working to identify and arrest people who use aggressive or intimidating tactics to get others to give them money.

 

Some business owners say it's not enough, and say panhandlers seem to be getting more persistent.  Police say they are using undercover stings and other enforcement tools to address the problem.

Mandatory Option For Sprinklers Could Bypass Possible Regulation


The City of Springfield may try to do an end run around possible new state rules that could require all new construction to include automatic sprinkler systems.

 

The Springfield Area Home Builders Association is asking aldermen to consider an ordinance, modeled on one passed in Bloomington earlier this year, that would ensure that sprinkler systems remain an option, not a requirement.

 

Dean Graven with the Home Builders Association says that the State Fire Marshall is pushing for a new mandate that would force all new construction, including single family homes, to install sprinkler systems.

 

Graven says this will increase the cost of not just building a home but also maintenance and insurance.  

 

The group is hoping to use the city’s home rule power to prevent what they say would be a costly and unnecessary mandate.

Springfield Passes $4 Million Loan for Vehicles


Springfield aldermen have approved an emergency request for a four-million-dollar bond issue, which will allow the city to purchase as many as 40 new vehicles.

 

Mayor Mike Houston’s office says fast action was needed to take advantage of unusually low interest rates.

 

The money will pay for two new firetrucks, 20 unmarked Springfield police cars, and vehicles for the Public Works Department.

 

Before passing the loan, aldermen passed two amendments. One would require all purchases from the approved fund to come before the city council for a vote.  The other amendment would force the funds to be spent within a year.

 

Ward 1 alderman Frank Edwards was the lone no vote.

Davis Campaigns in Rochester


13th Congressional District Candidate Rodney Davis

Congressional candidate Rodney Davis says he’s not opposed to government spending, as long as the money is spent wisely and produces results for taxpayers.

 

The Republican appointee to run in the 13th Congressional District vows to fight wasteful projects, and points to the failed Solyndra green energy initiative as one example.

 

Davis says he will be a voice for local people in Washington… and promises to battle entrenched interests on both sides of the aisle.

 

He made a stop in Rochester Tuesday to speak with voters.

 

Davis faces Democrat David Gill in November.

Sangamon County Consolidates Garage Operations


The Sangamon County Garage
All 252 vehicles ran by the county will be maintained in one garage

When it comes to garage consolidation, Sangamon county has a lesson for the City of Springfield: Keep your eye on the ball. 

 

Sangamon County is consolidating the maintenance and repair of their fleet of vehicles, including the Sheriff’s department, to their current facility on Terminal Avenue.

 

The estimated cost of the consolidation is $60,000 and that is to pay for two new lifts, a new oil changing station and other upgrades.

 

County Administrator Brian McFadden says that the consolidation plan was developed internally. He has advice for the city, don’t let the details detract from the goal … savings.

 

Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Jack Campbell said that everyone, including Tim Zahrn, the county engineer, had to come together to address all the needs of all departments.

 

All the maintenance staff and almost all the equipment will be transferred the current location on Terminal Avenue.

 

Zahrn says that the other location will still be available for convenience and in case of emergency. He also says that the county will save an estimated $70,000 a year maintaining the 252 vehicles in one garage, instead of two.

 

A fleet management position was created, which was hired internally and another job dealing with maintenance for the sheriff’s department will be transferred to the new location. Another maintenance position will be left vacant after an employee retires.

 

Officials expect the consolidation to be complete in a few weeks.

Curry Files Democrat for Sangamon County Coroner


Above: Jerry Curry, Democratic candidate for Sangamon County Coroner. Picture taken from MaryBryantHome.org.

A change of plans, and candidates, for Sangamon County Democrats.

 

The party has now slated funeral home director Jerry Curry to be their nominee to Sangamon County Coroner.

 

Curry submitted petitions Monday to appear on the November ballot, opposing Republican incumbent Cinda Edwards.

 

Curry ran for coroner in 1996, losing that year to Susan Boone, who resigned last year under pressure.

 

Democrats had initially planned to run Rachel Ralston this fall, but her potential candidacy was derailed by a new state law that appeared to make her ineligible to run as a Democrat, because she voted in the GOP primary in March.

 

 

Listen to Jerry Curry on Tuesday's Jim Leach Show with the player above or download the MP3 here.

Sangamon County Democrats Have Full Slate


Sangamon County Democrats now have a full slate of candidates for countywide office in November.

 

Kristin DiCenso has filed petitions to challenge Republican Circuit Clerk Tony Libri.

 

DiCenso says the office needs a fresh approach after four terms under Libri.

Libris Embark On The Mathew Project To Help Homeless School Children


Circuit Clerk Tony Libri and his wife are embarking on a new initiative, aimed at helping homeless public school students in the city.

 

The State Journal-Register reports the Libris have purchased a building near 8th and Cook which will house The Matthew Project.

 

The center will seek to provide clothing and other assistance for homeless students, and will try to teach them skills such as cooking.

 

District 186 says more than 500 students in Springfield meet the federal definition of “homeless,” which can range from sleeping in cars to living at a campground or sharing another family’s home.

Record Numbers For SOHO, Future In Question


Eirc Welch, SOHO organizer, joined The Kramer Show Monday. Listen to the interview with the player above or download the mp3 here.

The Future of a popular downtown music festival is in question because of a sound curfew proposed by Springfield’s mayor.

 

The SOHO Music Festival concluded their eighth annual two-day event Saturday with what organizers called a record breaking turnout. The music was scheduled to go to midnight both Friday and Saturday night.

 

Mayor Mike Houston had originally said he would impose a 9:30pm curfew for amplified music outdoors in downtown Springfield, but after public outcry he made an exception for this year’s SOHO.

 

The mayor said that all future events would have to cut off the sound at 10:30pm. As for the future of SOHO, organizer Eric Welch says that he’s still coming down from organizing a huge event from the weekend but the dialog must continue. 

 

Welch says it’s not just Springfield residents that attend the annual event and are concerned about what’s happening in the city, he also knows people who came in from out of town.

 

Welch addressed the City Council several weeks ago but says he has not had a one-on-one conversation with the mayor.

 

Welch says he estimates the total numbers from the festival at around 6,000 people. All the proceeds from the event go to the Mini O’Beirne Crisis Nursery.

 

Welch appeared on 970 WMAY’s The Kramer Show.

Ordinance Would Make Secondhand Stores Keep Same Records as Pawn Shops


Secondhand stores in Springfield would have to follow the same rules as pawn shops, keeping detailed records of the items they purchase, under a new ordinance that will be considered by the City Council later this month.

 

Alderman Tim Griffin is the sponsor, and says the measure is aimed at deterring thieves from trying to unload stolen merchandise at those second-hand stores.

 

If approved, the measure would require secondhand stores to keep detailed records and photographs of the items they purchase, along with a digital picture of the seller’s photo ID.

Citizens Balanced Budget Committee Mission May Be Too Vague


The Springfield School Board is rethinking its idea of a citizens committee to recommend ideas for balancing the District 1-86 budget.

 

Board members approved the committee just last month, but are now concerned that its mission may be too vague and undefined.

 

Even so, the committee is still slated to meet for the first time later this month, and to offer recommendations by the end of August.

Springfield Man Gets 27 Years for Child Pornography


A Springfield man has been sentenced to serve 27 years in federal prison for transportation and possession of images of child pornography.

 

James E. Bowen was arrested in July 2011 and entered guilty pleas to the charges. He also admitted to possessing more than 100,000 images of child pornography, including sadistic and masochistic movies and images.

 

Upon completion of his prison term, Bowen will remain under supervised release for life.

Many Ideas Still On Table In Trash Pickup Debate, But Aldermen Downplay Some Suggestions


Listen to the entire interview with Alderman Doris Turner and Cory Jobe on the Jim Leach Show with the player above or download the mp3 here.

The idea of putting waste hauling fees on City Water Light and Power bills remains alive, but a Springfield alderman says other proposed ideas related to garbage collection are not being actively pursued. 

 

No final plan is in place yet to deal with the problem of people who “fly-dump” or put their trash in someone else’s dumpster without paying for garbage pickup.  Alderman Doris Turner says assessing the charge through the CWLP bill would make it easier to track who isn’t paying their fair share. 

 

But Turner says at this point, the ideas on the table would not require people to give up their current waste hauler or change the day of the week for their assigned pickup.  A final draft could be ready in a month.

Aldermen: Fans Of Downtown Music Festivals Should Push Mayor On Curfew Issue


Listen to the entire interview with Alderman Doris Turner and Cory Jobe on the Jim Leach Show with the player above or download the mp3 here.

Two Springfield aldermen are urging city residents to let Mayor Mike Houston know their feelings on a curfew on live outdoor music downtown. 

 

Houston says he is imposing a 10:30pm limit on amplified outdoor music, so that it doesn’t become a late-night nuisance to people living down there.  But the decision could jeopardize downtown festivals like SOHO, which traditionally run as late as midnight. 

 

Aldermen Cory Jobe and Doris Turner… appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show”… says community input, rather than a confrontation with the City Council, may be the best way to get the mayor to reconsider.

DiCenso Files To Challenge Libri In Circuit Clerk's Race


Sangamon County Circuit Clerk Tony Libri now has an opponent for the November election. 

 

Kristin DiCenso did not run in the Democratic primary in March, but has now filed petitions to be the party’s slated candidate in November.  She says Libri has had a long tenure in the office, but it’s time for a fresh approach. 

 

DiCenso says her fledgling candidacy is drawing bipartisan support… and she calls herself a different kind of candidate who can break the Republican logjam on countywide offices.  [She appeared live Monday on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show.”]

SOHO Organizers Say Sound Curfew Will Hurt Charity Event


From Friday's SOHO, the band The Station opened their set with a clip of Mayor Mike Houston. Watch the video linked above provided by Alice @ 97.7

Another successful SOHO festival is in the history books, but the future of the popular downtown street festival is in doubt.

 

Organizers say they’re not sure they can continue if Mayor Mike Houston sticks to his demands for a 10:30pm curfew for amplified music at outdoor events downtown.

 

Houston gave SOHO an exemption this year, allowing the festival to go to its traditional midnight ending time.

 

Organizers say most people don’t come downtown for the festival until the late evening hours, and will probably skip the event if it is forced to wrap up too early.

Walsh: Democrats Make Minorities Dependent on Government


Illinois Republican Congressman Joe Walsh is standing by racially-charged comments he made last week, contending that African-Americans have been made dependent on government by Democrats.

 

Walsh made the comments at a town hall meeting in Schaumburg, where he accused Democrats of attempting to make Hispanics dependent on government services, a policy that he says has already succeeded with black voters.

 

In a follow-up interview, Walsh says his comments were not racial in nature and were critical of Democrats, not of minorities.

 

But in that same interview, he accused civil rights leader Jesse Jackson of, quote, “trying to keep African-Americans down on some plantation.”

 

Walsh later said he shouldn’t have used the word “plantation.”

Lawmakers Seek Credit For Accomplishments


Illinois legislative leaders say the General Assembly deserves some credit for what it did get done during the spring legislative session, not just criticism for failing to approve a pension reform plan.

 

The leaders point to a difficult Medicaid reform deal that passed both houses.

 

The legislature also approved a new state budget, despite opposition from some Democrats who said it invests too little in key services, and some Republicans who said it spends too much.

Woman Gets Surgery Following Downtown Assault


Springfield police say a woman had to undergo surgery for a head injury after she and a companion were attacked downtown early Saturday morning.

 

The woman and her boyfriend were assaulted by two men after a verbal confrontation.

 

Eyewitnesses led police to the two suspects, 21-year-old Marc Fagan and 22-year-old Aaron Miller of Springfield.

Veterans Complain About Cutbacks


Residents of the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy are complaining about cutbacks in services, but say no one seems to be listening.

 

The Quincy Herald-Whig reports the veterans are upset about reductions in group outings, the elimination of a workshop where veterans could build things, and changes in meal service at the home.

IL National Guard Head Considers Run for Congress


The head of the Illinois National Guard is considering a run for Congress.

 

Adjutant General William Enyart says he’s been approached by Democrats about the ballot vacancy in the 12th Congressional District.

 

Candidate Brad Harriman dropped out of the race for medical reasons.

 

Enyart would have to give up his National Guard post if he decides to challenge Republican nominee Jason Plummer.

SOHO Wraps Up, Future Uncertain


From Friday's SOHO, the band The Station opened their set with a clip of Mayor Mike Houston. Watch the video linked above provided by Alice @ 97.7

Was it the last SOHO?

 

The annual downtown music festival wrapped up another successful run Saturday night, but organizers aren’t sure if it will come back next year.

 

The charity event’s future is in doubt because of Mayor Mike Houston’s plan to implement a curfew for amplified music at downtown events.

 

Houston gave SOHO an exemption this year, but plans to impose a 10-30pm limit in the future.

 

SOHO organizers fear the cutback in hours will drive the crowds away.

JDC Future Still In Doubt, Despite Funding Allocated To Keep It Open


The future of the Jacksonville Developmental Center remains in doubt, even though lawmakers approved money to keep it open. 

 

Governor Pat Quinn says he remains convinced that developmentally-disabled people would get better care in smaller, community-based programs.

Secretary Of State's Office Lays Off 90 Workers


The effects of the new state budget are already being felt in the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office. 

 

A spokesman for Secretary of State Jesse White says 90 workers are being laid off… and another 160 vacancies won’t be filled. 

 

The moves are in response to a three-percent cut in White’s budget for the new fiscal year that starts July 1st.

THR Suspends Events Temporarily, Plans To Lay Off Some Workers


The shakeup continues at Springfield-based THR and Associates. 

 

The State Journal-Register reports the company has temporarily suspended the merchandise-buying events it stages around the country… and will lay off an unspecified number of workers.  A spokesman says it’s part of a restructuring. 

 

The company recently announced plans to close its J. Parsons store in Springfield, but continues to operate the Buy Sell Trade store chain here in and other communities.

Attorney General Supports Same-Sex Couples Seeking Right To Marry


Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan will supoprt two lawsuits questioning the constitutionality of the state's gay marriage ban.

 

Madigan's office filed a notice with the Cook County Circuit Court saying that it plans to present arguments that explain why ''the challenged statutory provisions do not satisfy the guarantee of equality under the Illinois Constitution.''

 

The lawsuits brought by the ACLU and New York-based Lambda Legal represent 25 gay couples, including two from Springfield.

Walsh Under Fire For Comments About Race


Illinois Republican Congressman Joe Walsh is standing by racially-charged comments this week that African-Americans are dependent on government. 

 

Walsh accused Democrats of trying to push Hispanics into dependency on government, and said the party had already done that to blacks.  Critics call the statement racist... but Walsh says he was not being critical of minorities, he was being critical of Democratic policies.

Lawmakers Likely To Be Called Back To Springfield To Try Again On Pension Reform; No Word On When


Governor Pat Quinn says lawmakers need to resolve their differences… quickly… and get back to Springfield soon to finish the job they couldn’t get done during the spring legislative session. 

 

Quinn says the state needs a pension reform plan in order to avoid a potential credit downgrade.  A tentative pension plan fell apart this week over the issue of shifting some state costs to local school districts, colleges and universities.  Quinn says those groups must have a stake in paying pension costs… and believes a deal can come together this summer.

 

The governor did not say when he might call a special session and summon the legislature back to Springfield.

Quinn Still Critical Of Gambling Bill, Won't Say If He Will Veto It


The fate of a gambling expansion bill is still uncertain… even though Governor Pat Quinn remains critical of aspects of the legislation. 

 

Lawmakers approved the bill to authorize five new casinos, including the first-ever in the City of Chicago, and to allow slot machines at horse racing tracks.  Quinn has been vocally opposed to the slots at racetracks… but would not say if he would veto the bill over that issue. 

 

The governor says voters want “integrity” in legalized gambling, and expressed concern that the bill does not do enough to prevent corruption related to the gaming industry.

Legislative Session Ends With No Pension Reform


It’s the end of the session, with no deal on pensions.

 

Illinois lawmakers adjourned the spring session without a vote on a pension reform plan, despite the fact that the bill had been watered down in recent days to attract more Republican support.

 

The revised bill, which was handed over to House GOP leader Tom Cross to sponsor, was shelved when House Speaker Mike Madigan announced his opposition to it and Democratic support for the bill evaporated.

 

Governor Pat Quinn indicated he would call lawmakers back this summer for a special session to continue work on the issue.

Emotions Run High As GA Passes Budget


The General Assembly has approved a new budget ahead of the end-of-session deadline. But emotions ran high during debate over the budget, which cuts millions of dollars from current education funding levels.

 

Some lawmakers say the state is failing to live up to its obligations to properly fund education. But others contend the budget actually increases… rather than reduces, overall spending.

 

The budget includes money to preserve several state facilities that Governor Pat Quinn targeted for closure, including the Jacksonville Developmental Center. But Quinn still has the option of closing the facilities and using the money for transition expenses.

Mixed Outcome For Proposed Taxes


Some strip clubs around Illinois could be paying higher taxes, under legislation that’s now headed to Governor Pat Quinn.

 

The House passed the bill Thursday to assess the tax, which will generate an estimated two-million-dollars a year for programs aimed at preventing violence against women.

 

But two other tax bills failed on Thursday… one would have added two-dollars to the cost of Illinois license plates to help pay for state parks, and the other would have tacked a five-dollar surcharge on satellite TV customers.

 

Each bill passed one chamber, but stalled in the other.

Abraham Lincoln Draws Conan O'Brien to Springfield


 

Jim Leach caught up with Conan. Listen with the player above or download the mp3 here.

The newest comedy team on late night TV could be Conan O’Brien, and Abraham Lincoln.

 

The comedian and host of a nightly talk show on TBS visited Springfield with a camera crew Thursday.

 

O’Brien visited the Lincoln Presidential Museum, the Old State Capitol and other Lincoln sites, shooting video that will most likely be used when O’Brien’s show originates from Chicago later this month.

 

The lanky comic says he has a lot in common with Lincoln… including his height and a talent for statesmanship.

Myrtle Beach Flights Take Off Again


Executives with Vision Airlines say they are expecting Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to remain a popular travel destination for people in the Springfield area.

 

The carrier has taken over the direct Springfield-to-Myrtle Beach route that was thrown into limbo when Direct Air filed for bankruptcy this spring.  The first Vision Air flights between the two cities took off Thursday, and will run twice weekly through the summer.

 

The success of the service will determine whether it will continue in future years, and may play a role in whether Vision Airlines will resume service between Springfield and Florida in the fall and winter months.

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